Spooners Forest will roar into life as some of the most powerful, purpose-built off-road race cars battle for the national title. Racers from all parts of the country will line up for the Green Flag in the forest near Belgrove. Among them are some of the fastest racers in NZ.
Nelson’s #173 Nevil Basalaj in action during ORANZ Championship in 2019
Nelson racer, #173 Nevil Basalaj is in a battle to dominate the Class 1, unlimited horsepower, field. His rivals are all heavy hitters with 6 litre, supercharged, V8’s being the preferred powerplant . His number 1 nemesis is #1 Dan Fisher. He is armed with a Razorback imported from Australia. Fisher knows the difference could well come down to local knowledge of this forest or straight out animal cunning. As the current national champion he has both of these features and many more in his arsenal. Another racer to watch is #110 Alex Bright. Alex has a Supercharged 6.2 litre V8, with grit and determination on his side. My money’s on him to take the lead after the ‘bolters’ have taken each other out of contention.
#1 Dan Fisher racing his Razorback during ORANZ Championship final in 2019
240kms is a long way in a forest, on dirt and gravel. To catch the leader will be one thing, to get past will be something else again. Those trees lining the track look way too close at 200km per hour and as the speed gets past 180kms per hour the gravel behaves more like marbles beneath the wheels. Overtaking at speed will be an act of pure bravery unless your adversary is developing a problem.
But problems do happen when racing in the forest. Holes form in corners as the laps go by. Rocks can destroy anything made of metal and trees act like magnets for the hapless racer.
Many will start this race. Only the best prepared will finish. One of the best prepared is #333 Brendon Old from Taranaki. Although limited to 1600cc, Brendon is one of the most mature racers in the field. If anyone can bring it home its him. Immaculate preparation and excellent race craft come together with this racer. If he can qualify well and start in the top 6, you’ll need more than a V8 to stop him from winning.
The Ruff’n’Tuff 250 has been raced in one form or another for over 20 years. It has been known as the Castrol 300 among a few other names. It has always been raced a this time of year in Spooners Forest and this year the race carries vital points in the 2021 JG CIVIL New Zealand Offroad Racing Championship competition. With a race distance of 240km, competitors will face 12, 20 kilometre, laps and race across ridge lines, through gullies, on forest roads and muddy tracks. There are river crossings and some obstacles best tackled at high speed to use sheer momentum to get through.
There’s no shortage of horsepower arriving to compete. #104 Donald Preston from Te Anau is bringing his 7 litre V8 powered American desert car to the forest. #S46 Bob Uttridge from Christchurch with be fast and agile in the 4wd Yamaha side by side, and sometimes that is the combination that trumps outright speed in the forest. #192 Ash Kelly is bringing the most winning car in NZ Offroad Racing history to the fight. His 3 litre, Type 4 VW was the weapon that propelled its creator, Tony McCall, to multiple NZ titles, Woodhill 100 wins and dominated the NZ scene for two decades. If Ash brings his magic, he will be hard to keep off the podium. And lets not forget the beast that race organiser, #844 Darrin Thomason is bringing out to race. A Buick V6 Toyota Trundra race truck that hooks up and will push the pace on the gravel roads.
It’s going to be rough and it’s going to be tough, so expect the roughest and toughest to come through and win this awesome race.
Qualifying sprints start at 8am Saturday 15 May and the big race starts at midday. Follow the signs into the forest from Wakefield . Bring a picnic. It’s going to be a great day out in the forest.